Drug use is one of the most serious problems any parent fears in his or her children, but with teen drug testing, some of these worries can be relieved. Teen drug testing helps parents, educators and the juvenile justice system to ensure troubled teens stay away from illicit substances, whether they’ve never used before or have already developed addictions.
There are several types of teen drug testing. Urine is used to test for relatively recent use of alcohol, drugs or nicotine. Some drugs, such as marijuana, leave metabolites that linger in urine much longer than others, meaning they can be detected for a much longer period of time. Others, such as LSD, are flushed out of the system much more quickly, without leaving a detectable trace in urine.
Hair is used in teen drug testing for longer-term screening. Many drugs leave chemical traces in hair follicles, and because the hair continues to grow slowly, the traces will remain in the hair until the portion with the trace is cut, usually months after the drug use.
Blood teen drug testing is sometimes used, especially to determine whether a teen is currently intoxicated. Sweat and saliva can also be screened, sweat for use during longer periods of time, saliva for recent use.
Home Teen Drug Testing: A Bad Idea
Most of these tests require professional oversight and administration, but home teen drug testing kits have become increasingly popular in recent years. These kits, available for purchase in many pharmacies and retail stores, offer a means of testing teens for drug and alcohol use, usually by urine screening.
But there are significant problems with this method of teen drug testing. For one thing, it’s much easier for teens to cheat. Parents simply aren’t qualified to maintain a rigorous testing environment, which may require that teens be observed at all times during screening, including urination. And an almost endless assortment of methods, schemes and products exists, all of it online, to help drug users get around urine tests.
Teens may also simply switch drugs. Home teen drug testing screens for only a short list of commonly used drugs. Teens are often even better than adult users at finding new, even more dangerous drugs that won’t trigger the kits’ warnings. Pushing your son from marijuana to inhalants is not the outcome you want.
Professionals Can Provide Answers
Plus, parents often aren’t prepared to deal with what they ultimately learn, if they learn anything. Do they make a deal allowing their teens time to shape up? Do they send them to rehab? Do they call the police and teach them a lesson? Uncertainty and shame may prevent many parents from taking the next right step once they know a teen is using (or suspect the teen is cheating on the test).
For all these reasons, it’s much smarter to rely on professionals when teen drug testing. Professionals are trained to catch almost every kind of cheating, they employ a rigorous chain of custody and strict quality control, and perhaps most important, once they have an answer, they can make recommendations for treatment, or at least directions to a behavioral health center that can help you decide what’s next.
Carter is a writer who covers many different topics. He writes on the topic of drug testing and teen drug abuse.